Monday, March 31, 2003


I played poker Saturday night again, this time winning a whopping 3.50, which covered roughly 75% of the tolls I spent driving to the game, which was some 50 miles away. Still a great time, though, and it was good to get away. I need to find a poker game closer to home though. Come Sunday morning I was grouchy, irritable, and tired. Luckily, so was Kathleen! We were a couple of peas in a pod. Two of the seven dwarves. Grumpy and sleepy.

To make the day even more weird, it we got a bit of late spring snowfall, big heavy wet snowflakes that twirled and spun in the March wind. Two days ago it was seventy degrees out in the sun!

So we loaded up the children (and the dog) in the minivan and went out on a search and conquer mission: we were on a quest to find the mythical indoor playland.

I remember the days pre-children. I would notice these large play areas in McDonalds, Burger King, and other franchisees. I'd look at them like they were some kind of museum exhibit, like dinosaurs at the smithsonian. Or I'd ignore them. Probably, atleast once or twice I sure, I'd cluck my cheek and think to myself "what kind of a lifeless slob has nothing better than to drag their poor children to some crappy excuse for a playground at a goddamn McDonalds for crying out loud?"

Lets flash back to the present. I'm a lifeless slob who has nothing better to do than to drag his poor children to some crappy excuse for a playground. But its even worse than that. I can't find that crappy excuse for a playground and because of this I'm starting to panic. There was one in Leesburg, but Kathleen was sure there was a big one in Ashburn, but we drove there and it was outdoors.

I don't want to go in a restaurant without a playland. That would almost guarantee an arrival of our two good freinds, chasing and yelling. I'm tired and I have a headache and I just want to make it until bedtime. So we keep driving. The Chick-Fill-A has an awesome playland, but they're closed on Sundays. Stupid lousy seven habits churchy morality. (Oddly, on Moday when I went to the very same restaurant I applauded their moral fabric). We drive towards Sterling.

Anna is really hungry, and we start to have strange conversations.

"I want to go to McDonalds!" Anna says, with a whine to her voice that makes the ashtray in the car rattle.

"We are going to get something to eat really soon sweetheart."

"I want to go into this McDonalds" Anna continues. We are at a stoplight about 60 feet from a McDonalds, one with no playland.

"That's not the right kind of McDonalds, sweetie. We want one with a playland."

"I'm hungry. I want to stop now. Why can't we eat here?"

Our children must think I'm insane. We told them we were going to McDonalds and we've driven by about seven different restaurants. They just want to stop and eat. Instead, we approach the restaurant, drive slowly around it like a shark circling prey, and then speed off, in search of other, new and different fine fast food establishments.

So I have degenerated even further, and now I am the lifeless slob who has nothing better to do than to drag his hungry children around in a van searching for a place to eat a greasy hamburger with a playland.

We found one, by the way. And no, I'm not going to tell you where, either. Its a secret.

Sunday, March 30, 2003


My cousin Peg just got married today (to a guy named Sean who I have not met yet), which is fantastic news and I am only sad in that we couldn't make the trek up to be a part orf all this. Weddings are such powerful ceremonies, all about commitment and renewal. Its a beautiful thing. Peg, we are all so proud of you and only wish you the best! Congratulations!

Friday, March 28, 2003

Molly is my brother's eldest daughter. She is seven, and Anna just dreams of being "big like Molly." Anyway, via Nina I wa just passed a poem she wrote, and I liked iot so much I'm posting it here.
* * *
To my star
Hi I know your just a star
but to me you're part of my family.
Every night I look up in the sky.
To other kids it looks black,
but to me i see a special friend
That has no name.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A DAY IN THE COUNTRY - 3/23/2003

I volunteered to take Anna and PJ for the day on Sunday, for the most part, because I am a good dad. I should start out by saying that. Also, maybe, I should explain that it was because I was up until 2am playing poker the night before that I was a little sleep deprived. So I wasn't feeling all that great, and I had Anna Pj in the back of the minivan, happily watching Wallace & Gromit on the 9" portable tv, while I drove out in the minivan towards the mountains, carefully stopping at every Sheetz in site to purchase another 64oz soda.

We never got to the mountans, exactly. We had a great time though. Its guess fro some people it might be embarassing to say that you took your two children out for the day and went to a brewery. Hey! We had a good time. It was good clean fun. Let me explain.

Bardo was this great bar in Arlington. It was a brewpub that was made out of this converted auto dealership. It was huge and it had these amazing beers on tap. It was like going to your friend's basement with two or three hundred of your closest friends, and drinking his most excellent homebrew. Well, Bardo the bar is no more, but the same guy has this brewry on a piece of land near Amissville, VA. As I was driving out towards the Shenandoah's I stopped, asked, and got directions. Get ready kids, we're going to Bardo!

Right off I knew that this was going to be a great place to go on a beautiful Sunday It had lots of artwork and rustic charm that gave it the right atmosphere for a country brewery. And they didn't serve Budweiser, either. I appreciated that. They didn't have an actual playground, but Anna and PJ made due with what was available. The tasting area was a beautiful open patio and was full of inviting breezes. They even had a place for you to barbecue!. Finally though, it was time to leave. Next time I'll make sure and bring some growlers to take home with me.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Anna Zone!

Welcome! Come in, come in. Watch you're head. Looking straight ahead you can see the wrapping paper for various gifts that Anna like to make for people. There on the right, there she is, hard at work on her latest creation.
A little bit ahead and to your right is a pretend kitchen sold under the name of My Sweet Magic Kitchen. This toy was bought for Anna by Grandma Nina, although dad had to assemble it in a grim two hour period on christmas eve, after which I always refer to this as MSMFK.
Watch you're step please, there is a lot of stuff on the flor ahead. This is Anna's 'creative' area. If she were an artist, we might say she was going though a 'chaotic' period.
As you look high up on the wall, you see that Anna has used her tape and scissors to create things and stick them to the wall. We are not really sure how she got them up there. You see the butterfly's over the picture of the carousel? She is not tall enough. She must have stacked some thing or things on the table. I don't want to know.
At the top of her shelves Anna keeps her party favors at the ready. Anna is always up for some last minute entertaining and likes to be prepared.
Do you see the various pieces of tape? These were once part of some 90 minute children's medley cassette, have been cut and taped to the closet door at various lengths and intervals. We believe that these lengths and intervals form some kind of primitive language of a kind.
Again, the wall over Anna's bed has been heavily decorated with a variety of drawings , stickers, and tape. I think for some of these taller ones she merely had to bounce on the bed until she was high enough, and then push the paper against the wall
And finally, here she is in person , hard at work, creating some musical number, the artists mind never ceasing its constant motion.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I have a distinct memory from when I was a wee little one of how much I enjoyed being carried into bed from the car when I fell asleep on long drives at night. There was something about it that I liked so much that some times I would fake it. I would lie perfectly still with my eyes closed, and wait for strong arms to carry me into a warm bed.

I remember that it felt so nice, the protection, the sense of being taken care of. It made such an impression on me that I can still remember it, even though I could not have been more than four or five at the time. It seems now an impossibly distant past. Yet tonight, I thought I caught Anna pulling the same stunt on me. I think she was, but I couldn't tell for sure.

It was just a feeling and it passed through me like a shiver. The feeling of being carried up and out of the car, through the doorway, up the steps, blind and protected, so long ago. Some times being a parent is really cool.
two more quickes:

Q1: So we've been telling PJ (a lot) that now that he has a baby brother he is a great big boy and not a teeny weenie boy. But PJ still see's the Samster with some scepticism. My wife had the following conversation:

Kathleen: "PJ, are you a teeny weenie boy"
PJ: "No"
Kathleen: "Well then, are you a Great Big boy?"
PJ: "No"
Kathleen: "Well then what are you?"
PJ: "I a dog."

Q2: I have had to repair both the other toilets in the house yesterday. I'm getting pretty good at it, but not as much as this gal!

Patra has been sleeping in the basement. Patra is our dog, a black lab that has grown from a sixty pound bullet of energy several years ago into a fairly overwieght sweet natured ninety pound sedentary beast. A big old sack of sugar as I like to call her. Hey, we are all getting fat these days, who am I to complain? Patra is getting to the point where her hips are becoming arthritic. Its normal for Labs of this age. I give her aspirin for it and it helps. But she has a pained look in the mornings sometimes, and its a little work for her to stand up and sit down.

So she's been sleeping in the basement lately. But she won't go down by herself. Maybe she's afraid? She'll sit at the door and whine, and if I open the door she'll have this look, this heavy eyed expression of guilt, like she's saying (what? by myself? you're not going down there with me?). Usually this isn't a problem though, I am always going down into the basement to my office for one reason or another. But once I go down Patra will remain and sleep there all night. I think I've figured it out, why she is doing this. She's hiding.

This morning the kids were in the front office yelling, "Patra! Patra!", and finally Patra, moving slowly and seeming like Eeyore (Woe is me. What do they want now?) finally moved her way to the office. Immediately Anna shuts the door and locks it, throws a blanket on Patra, and PJ and Anna start running around Patra and yelling at her "Patra! Go to sleep Patra! Go to sleep." I finally arrive on the scene to investigate moments later and Anna unlocks the door and there is Patra, with that heavy look she always seems to have, lying under a blanket, while the children run around her in circles and yell at her. Maybe I should mention that both kids were naked. Where did their clothes go? I've stopped trying to figure out these things.

But at least now I know why Patra likes to hide out in the basement. Its the same reason I do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

A quick word of thanks and a then just a couple photos. First of all, a big thank you to both my mom and Kathleen's mom, who stayed with us through this hectic period and made what could have been an exhausting and difficult time into a wonderrful couple of weeks. Thanks!

This one is my mom holding the little Samster. She had to eat a plane ticket to stay a few days extra, but did so smilingly. What a trooper!

And here is Sam with mom, grandmom, and great-grandmom. We had to take a couple of photos before Grandma would finally stop looking at the baby.


Well after all this news about Enron and Worldcom I didn't think my daughter had been paying attention, but I was wrong. In fact, she has just this morning been telling me about her latest money making scheme, which to her credit is more inventive that at least half of the spam I get in the mail. This morning.

Me: "Anna, how does this work?"

Anna: "We put a table outside, and a chair out there too. I will put on my shoes and sock and jacket and sit on the chair out there. And I will call to people and as k them for money."

Me: "What is the chart for?"

(note: Anna drewe the chart, and then dictated the lettering for each day. I added Sunday later, at first she thought it should be foru dollars, and then decided on twelve nickels.)
MONDAY:gold coin
TUESDAY:ten dollars
WEDNESDAY:one dollar
THURSDAY:six shiny coins
FRIDAY:two dollars
SATURDAY:eight brown coins
SUNDAY:twelve nickels

Anna: "What day the money comes."

Me: "So people will just walk by and give you money?"

Anna: "yeah."

So, I tried to explain how money is used as a medium of exchange for goods and services in our society. I told her how she would be, in effect, begging, and that while people she knew, like Grandmothers, might give her money, that strangers would think she was begging.

Anna: "But Miss Sandy knows me."

She was getting frustrated with the whole "you gotta work for a living in this world" schtick and so I dropped the whole thing. But it was almost 7:30 AM by then and I thought I would teach her a lesson on working for your money. I said "Anna, I will give you a dime if you go and wake mommy up" to which she said "Sure!" cheerfully and strode off. I think she knows more than I give her credit for. Twenty seconds later I hear her telling PJ that he has to go and wake up mommy.

UPDATE -- approx 2:30 PM on the same day

Thsi photo was taken today, as she patiently waited for people to give her money. Why? "So that I can be lucky" miss determination replied. The deal struck was that she had to offer at least hot chocolate in exchange for money; no begging was to be allowed. So far there have been no takers, but Anna appears undaunted.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

SAM IS HOME! 3/1/2003 2PM

Woohoo! After 8 days in the hospital, little Sam is now safe at home where he may be hounded mercilessly by his inquisitive older sister Anna, and judiciously ignored by his cautious and skeptical older brother PJ. All right!